WASHINGTON -- ACORN, the controversial and defunct community activist group accused of a variety of criminal activities, will not get a chance to air its grievances about losing federal funding before the Supreme Court, the justices announced Monday.
The group was trying to appeal a unanimous lower court ruling affirming the federal government's right to strip millions of dollars in funds from the group and its associated affiliates. The justices, as often happens, announced their decision without comment.
ACORN's activities received little attention before 2009 when it became the focus of outrage for mostly-Republican lawmakers who objected to the group's politics and shady dealings.
"ACORN hides behind a paper wall of nonprofit corporate protections to conceal a criminal conspiracy on the part of its directors, to launder federal money in order to pursue a partisan political agenda and to manipulate the American electorate," Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., wrote in an investigative report that formed the basis of subsequent efforts to strike funds.
The House overwhelmingly passed a bill expressly prohibiting taxpayer money from going to the group. President Obama signed it into law and the freeze-out remains in effect.
Lawyers for the controversial group said Congress had never before passed legislation banning a specific group from receiving money and argued that doing so here violated the Constitution.
Darius Carney with the Center for Constitutional Rights said the outstanding legal issue "is not whether the Legislature had a reasonable basis for finding that a particular entity committed misconduct, but rather whether the Legislature is entitled to make that judgment."
A unanimous three-judge panel of the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals determined that ACORN's financial loss wasn't so severe or inappropriate to constitute punishment. ACORN's lawyers disagreed with that ruling arguing that the Founders expressly prohibited the Legislative Branch from punishing people or groups.
"Although the appropriations laws may have the effect of alienating ACORN and its affiliates from their supporters, Congress must have the authority to suspend federal funds to an organization that has admitted to significant mismanagement," Judge Roger Miner wrote last August.